Italian espresso and cappuccino
Espresso coffee is the best-known Italian drink in the world. Much more than a simple drink, espresso is a real "institution". In fact, coffee is an integral part of Italian culture. Then just change city to find different colour, aroma, taste and quantity of coffee in the cup. The differences vary in particular between Northern and Southern Italy and are linked to the culture, traditions and habits of the people who consume it. In fact, the characteristics of the blend, the preparation methods, the body, the aroma, the cream and the taste of the coffee change. Coffee tends to be lighter in Northern Italy and more full-bodied going South.
A perfectly prepared espresso coffee fills about half the cup, with about 25 millilitres of coffee and has a consistent hazelnut cream. In fact, the cream covers every good espresso. The aroma is intense and rich in notes of flowers, fruit, chocolate and toasted bread. In the mouth the espresso is full-bodied and velvety, pleasantly bitter. The perfect espresso must have a balanced and very persistent taste.
The espresso system was born from the need to obtain coffee quickly (the word “espresso” in Italian means fast), thanks to the various systems for increasing the water pressure. To make a good espresso, the ideal conditions are: a 7 gr. dose of ground coffee; the water temperature between 88-94 ° C, the temperature of the coffee in the cup around 67° C and the cream on the surface with a thickness of 3-4 mm. Furthermore, only coffee beans should be used to ensure maximum freshness and taste. As for the type of cups to use, espresso coffee preferably requires porcelain cups, with a thickness sufficient to maintain the temperature.
Usually, the coffee used in espresso is the result of a mixture of several coffees. Indeed, through blending it is possible not only to keep the quality of the final product stable, but also to enhance the organoleptic characteristics of each coffee. By selecting the types of coffee on the basis of their characteristics (aroma, quality, persistence, body) and combining them, it is possible to enhance their qualities.
When we talk about coffee varieties we usually think of Arabica, Robusta and Liberica. In reality there are innumerable types of coffee in the world (more than 100 varieties), but from the commercial point of view there are about ten the most popular varieties. Between one type of coffee and another certainly changes the taste, more or less strong and with a different aroma; caffeine content which may be higher or lower; adaptability to different climates and terrains. Also, the cultivation altitude has a great influence on the production of one variety of coffee and the other, in fact some types prefer those at high altitude (like the Arabica), others less so.
The roasting process consists in bringing coffee beans to very high temperatures for about 15-18 minutes, transforming green coffee beans into crumbly and fragrant beans. The degree of roasting influences the colour of coffee. It is in this process that the taste and aroma of coffee are formed. Normally, after roasting, coffee is left to rest for a few days in special silos before being packaged. The aroma is the unmistakable scent of true Italian espresso.
In Italy there is a vast choice in terms of coffee offer. It is in fact the only Country in which one can enjoy a good coffee in so many ways: narrow, long, decaffeinated, “macchiato”, with cream, with alcohol, shaken, cold, but also flavoured with hazelnut, cocoa or chocolate, and so on.
There is a curiosity related to coffee: the custom of the so-called "suspended coffee". This custom began in Naples during the Second World War, when, in very difficult times, people used to pay for two cups of coffee: one for themselves and one for those who could not afford it. Even today, when a customer orders a suspended coffee, he pays for two coffees while receiving only one. In this way, when a person in need enters the bar, he can ask if there is a suspended coffee: if so, he receives the consumption of a cup of coffee as if it had been offered to him by the first customer. This tradition has remained alive for several years, and after a certain decline, it has recently come back into vogue, not only in Naples, but throughout Italy.
Cappuccino is a drink of Italian origin consisting of coffee and steamed milk. The origins of cappuccino are quite ancient, and it seems that the name of this drink is a clear reference to Capuchin friars. This is due to the colour of their dress, which is reminiscent of coffee. In Italy, the Country where it is most widespread, it is traditionally consumed in the morning, at breakfast or after, never during meals. Accompanied by brioches, biscuits and other sweets, this type of drink is practically synonymous with breakfast.
According to tradition, a quality cappuccino is made up of 25 ml of espresso and 100 ml of steamed milk. At the base of Italian cappuccino there is always a good Italian espresso. The secret to obtaining a perfect cappuccino is also high quality milk. From a sensory point of view, Italian cappuccino has a white color and a more or less thick brown border. Italian cappuccino also has an intense aroma.
The consistency of the foam depends on the percentage of fat in the milk. The froth of whole milk is creamy, dense and velvety; that of semi-skimmed milk is less soft. For an excellent cappuccino it is therefore preferable to opt for fresh whole milk. This choice is due to the fact that the high fat content contributes to the enhancement of taste. In addition, this type of milk enhances the foam making it more compact and full-bodied. According to some particular techniques it is also possible to perform real drawings with foam.
There are also many variations of capuccino: a light cappuccino is with little coffee and a lot of milk, ideal for those who like a drink with less coffee or for those who need to limit the use of caffeine. Cappuccino without foam has no foam but simple heated milk and is similar to the classic coffee with milk. When the bartender is asked for a drink of this type, it means that while using the foam, the customer wishes to have a drink with a not very high temperature. In this sense, bartender, in addition to coffee and milk froth, add a little cold milk to make the drink less hot. There are also those who expressly request the opposite: in this case, the milk can be heated almost to boiling point.
Cappuccino is definitely not a very "dietetic" drink. In fact, a sugar-free cappuccino has a contribution of about 80/90 calories and should therefore be consumed in moderation.